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Boli Figure, for the Kono Society

Arts of Africa

A boli is an abstract figure kept in a shrine belonging to a secret Bamana men's association. It is believed to be the embodiment of the spiritual powers of the society. These powers underlie the ability of the association to maintain social control. Today, the Kono society has lost its influence in most Bamana communities due to the conversion of Bamana to Islam.

The basic form of this boli resembles a highly simplified cow. It is composed of a wooden core over-modeled with materials such as mud, eggs, chewed kola nuts, sacrificial blood, urine, honey, beer, vegetable fiber, and cow dung. The use of blood, excrement, and urine reflects the belief that these organic substances possess extremely potent spiritual powers.

MEDIUM Clay and organic materials
DATES late 19th–early 20th century
DIMENSIONS 15 x 7 x 21 1/2 in. (38.1 x 17.8 x 54.6 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
CREDIT LINE Gift of Georges Rodrigues
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Four legged animal without defined features. It has a flat rump, stands on four squat legs, has a hump on its back, and a rounded head. It is composed of a variety of materials: a hard wooden core covered with bark, plant fibers, clay and other materials. CONDITION: Very fragile with losses of outer layers: cleared, crackled and crumbling areas.
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Bamana. Boli Figure, for the Kono Society, late 19th–early 20th century. Clay and organic materials, 15 x 7 x 21 1/2 in. (38.1 x 17.8 x 54.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Georges Rodrigues, 75.77. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 75.77_SL1.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 75.77_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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